S was not quite four when he became deeply enamored with octopuses and squids, but especially octopuses. Especially the Giant Pacific and the Blue-ringed octopuses. I remember this now, because G is almost exactly the same age. I learned things about these invertebrates I never expected to learn in my entire life, much less from my stilll three-year-old son. Like that they had beaks made from keratin. That there were approximately 250 species of octopus in the oceans. Even things concerning life span and fertilization. One day when picking S up from preschool I met a mom leaving as I was coming in the door.
-You are S’s mom?
-Yes, that’s right.
She then proceeded to tell me how much she had enjoyed his show and tell. At first I wondered why, because he had just brought in a plastic bath toy of….you guessed it….an octopus. She then told me he had stood up and began talking (in what I am quite sure was a heavily lispy voice). “The Blue-ringed octopus lives off the coasts of Australia and Indonesia…” I am quite certain his classmates were not as interested, but I was proud of him. He has always loved to share (i.e. show off ) information.
Four years before I had an idea that I would one day be educating S and his brothers at home, I was inspired by his and A’s enthusiasm. They came home from school each day ready to play and to learn. That summer after S turned four we did a full study (well, at least what our library afforded us) of octopuses. We read about them, acted out octopus dramas in the living room and at bathtime, created arms showing hundreds of suckers represented by Cheerios, and even visited one at a nearby aquarium.
Eventually, we created our own Blue-ringed with a paper bag and some poster paint. Click here for a photo of an actual Blue-ringed octopus.
I feel quite nostalgic for those days. My boys were preschoolers back then. The world was exciting, and we were wrapped intrinsically in each other’s worlds. I love S at ten, as well, but it is a different time, with different joys. He still reads about octopuses and other invertebrates, but not with the same frenetic pace. It is an occasional reading. He has other interests.
I need to learn to appreciate this ten-year-old S. It seems this will be who he is forever, but now I appreciate how Laura Ingalls Wilder ended Little House in the Big Woods.
“They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”
And yet, as if she has siphoned herself mysteriously away, the Blue-ringed octopus already seems to be fading into the recent past.